Monday, November 9, 2009

Gaming Journal #3

This week I tried to find one game where communication between gamers was essential, but it turns out that the communication within nearly every multiplayer game is needed in order to have a thoroughly enjoyable gaming experience. But any gamer will notice that there are many different forms of communication within the gaming world, such as voice, text, emote, character movements/choices (e.g., shooting a "team killing f***tard" (RvB) during an FPS match), NPC actions etc... The essays in The Video Game Theory Reader 2 describe communication mainly through text and emote, which is extremely likely to be effected by even the must minute amounts of lag. I played World of Warcraft for a while and I realized that when you use a mic that it works well because it runs on a sepperate system that is unaffected by the lag that would be caused by the low-power video cards that process incoming information. I have also played console games for quite a long time and I have found that the voice chat within the console gaming world is nearly impervious to this lag also, even when the game has frozen and all action has ceased, voice chat between players can continue.

I am going to use this blog to support two key ideas from reading Lag, Language, and Lingo by Mia Consalvo. The first being that lag itself is an important part of the gaming experience. I mainly do console gaming and I have to admit that a console is no exception to the lag factor, in fact, most cases of lag happen when playing an FPS which rarly seems to stop because of the lag, but instead will allow your opponents to "teleport" around and kill you with ease... Which leads to frustration, cursing and quitting, but the RTS world is a much different way to experience lag. The second key idea is that communication within the gaming world, be it lag or not, creates a social atmosphere that needs to be studied. Humans are social creatures and if we want to understand ourselves to a full extent we must study behavior within the gaming environment, especially because gaming has become such a large part of human culture.

This week I chose to play Halo Wars, which is a Real Time Strategy (RTS) video game based on the Halo universe. RTS style gaming is based on communication between gamers, because players must understand what their teammates are doing in order to make a sound strategy. For example, when someone is planning to attack the opposing team it is nice to talk to one another so that they may join their armies together and strike at the opposition with a more deadly force, that could gaurantee victory. However, I believe that the experienced gamer will be psychologically ready for the lag that will inevitably be a part of the game, and Halo Wars is no exception, many times a sat there staring at a screen where every unit stood completely still even in the midsts of battle. But I did not sit there alone, most times I could continue talking strategy with either one or two of my teammates, and in a sense we were able to get a jump start on our opponents when the lag ended. Having lag is just as important as not having it, either way the gaming experience will be different. I'm sure that researchers would have a field day when examining how gamers communicate to one another, and understanding how video games instill aggression, frustration and triumph could lead to some interesting discoveries. I think that the basis of many linguistic behaviors could be further studied if we used human communication in a video games as a starting point.
During large scale battles like this, players must rely on other players for survival. Otherwise, the power and size of the opposing force can get out of hand.

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